Monday, May 30, 2016

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

★★★★ 1/2

Nearly every family has some sort of dysfunctional aspect, but the four sibling of the Plumb family seem to sum this up to a tee.  Each child was promised a large amount of money from the "Nest" - a trust fund established by there now deceased father that they will have access to after Melody's (the youngest) quickly approaching 40th birthday.  Theres Leo who made A LOT of money after he sold his Internet company and hasn't really done anything thing since.  Jack is a mostly failing antique dealer has borrowed one against his beach house that he share with his husband Walker to keep his shop running.  Once a semi-famous short story writer Bea is doing better than the other siblings, but she can't seem to finish her long overdue novel and is stuck at a dead-end job.  And then there's Melody - the mother of teenage twin girls and hoping to pay off their way-to-expensive-house and have money left over to send her daughters to college.  

This pretty much says it all:

"A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives."

This book started with a hand-job gone horribly wrong and ended with a family birthday celebration.  Between these event we go to know a cast of characters - both members of the Plumb family and others - that were all so different and yet all connected in various ways.  The book was narrated by each character at various points and I really enjoyed getting a glimpise into each ones mind - if only for a short while.  I loved the connections between the people in this novel.  I loved their ability to make horrible decisions without even trying and I enjoyed seeing each of them grow as the book progressed.

When I started this book, I went through various stages of slight and extreme dislike for most of the characters, but by the end I found myself really liking and caring about (most of) this crazy family and there various acquaintances.  This story and these characters seemed to go together and a way that I can't quite seem to describe.  Their lives in New York Society were so far beyond my comprehension, but I was still able to connect to the characters in different ways.

I completely agree what all the hype is about and I totally agree with all of it.  This book isn't for everybody and requires a certain mind-set, but it just worked on so many different angles.  The writing was fun and witty and the story was unique and interesting and extremely addicting.  My only complaint was that there were so many narrator's that I sometime had trouble keeping them straight.  I listened to audio book and there wasn't a lot of time between each narration change though so it probably wouldn't have been an issue if I had read the actual book.  But, even so, this book was so, so good and can't wait to see what else this author has for us in the future.  I haven't read a book like this in a long time and couldn't get enough of these characters and Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's brutal and realistic honesty.  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Herbie's Big Adventure by Jennie Poh


Herbie is a little hedgehog who is more than fine just staying home, but one day his mother tells him he can go on his first forging trip by himself.  Herbie is a little worried, but soon finds himself liking the freedom of being able to explore the world outside of his home.  He travels farther and farther away, he suddenly finds himself in a snow covered area.  Will Herbie be able to make it home to him mom?

This is a great story about a very cute little hedgehog.  It teaches about the four season, exploring nature, and love between a mother and her baby.  The story was good, but my favorite aspect about this book was the beautifully colored illustrations and changed throughout the story.  I loved how Herbie and his surroundings really stood out on the page due to the color schemes that were used and the details were wonderful!!!

Thank you to netgally, Capstone, and Jennie Poh for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty

"Leo was a gentle knight in thought and word and deed.While other knights liked fighting, Leo liked to sit and read."

Leo is a young mouse from a family of knights - his parents expect him to grow up to fight dragons but Leo has other ideas.  He wants nothing more than to sit home and read book.  When a ferocious dragon is starts causing destruction to the town, Leo is sent off to save the day.  He meets a handful of creatures before finally facing the dragon.  He brings a sword and a shield, but his most helpful weapon is an arm-full of books! 

This is very cute story about a mouse who is a little different than everyone else.  Instead of knighthood, he wants to read books - and his reading ends up being what saves the town from the dragon.  'The Storybook Knight' has everything that makes a great picture books - bright illustrations, fun text, and a wonderful story.

Thank you to Netgalley. Jabberwocky, and Helen Docherty for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin (audio)

"A woman's life, always changing, accommodating, then shedding, old duties for new; one person's expectations for another until finally, victoriously, emerging stronger. Complete."

This is a fascinating historical novel about Anne Morrow - wife of the famous Charles Lindbergh and his record breaking journey across the Atlantic.  I didn't know much about the Lindberghs before reading this story - aside from what is "written in the history books" - and I learned a lot while at the same time reading an extremely entertaining book.  

I didn't always like Anne's decisions (and I disliked the author's portrayal of Charles more often than not), but I liked her character and found her life so interesting. They were a famous couple from the start of Charles's flight and their lives were affected by it. Anne continually tried to live a "normal" life and was constantly in the spotlight.  I was heartbroken by their loss of Charles, Jr. at such a young age and how it impacted both of them, especially Anne, throughout the rest of their lives.  

Anne seemed like such an ordinary person at the beginning of the novel, but she ended up living such an extraordinary live.  From the start of the book, I could tell that she was going to be a character that was different.  She wasn't as pretty or popular as her sister and didn't have any desire for fame or fortune.  The result of her marriage to Charles was not exactly what she wanted in life, but she tried and tried to make it work.  Anne was extremely loyal to Charles for many, many years at the start of their marriage and was always trying to live up to his unrealistic expectations.  

I found myself really relating to her constant struggle to balance her role to be a wife, a mother, an author, and (much later on in her life) her own person.  This novel was essentially about Anne and Charle's marriage, but it was more about Anne's journey through different stages of her life.  She was constantly adapting and changing into what her husband or children or the press wanted and needed her to be.  And she was successful through all of it.  She was always know as the "aviator's wife" and I was glad to get a glimpse into many other parts of her life.  I'm not sure how accurate the book was to her true thoughts and emotions, but I was happy that she was able to find contentment at a later stage in life.  This was a wonderful book by a very talented author.  I loved the story and the characters and the emotions that it brought up, but what made the book amazing for me was the writing and the historical aspects that went into this book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary


I loved reading Beverly Cleary's books when I was growing up and read this one to my daughter for the Kindred Spirits goodreads book group.  And it was during Beverly Cleary's 100th birthday celebration.  I love these books and how the author is accurately able to portray children in their daily lives.  I remember these characters being so easy to relate to and can't wait to read more of these books with Isabelle.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (audio)

"Who does ever get what they want?  It doesn't seem to happen to many of us if any at all.  It's always two people bumping into each other blindly, acting out old ideas and dreams and mistaken understandings."

The premise of this book was unique - a widow asks her neighbor (who also lost his wife several years ago) to spend the night with him.  Not for romantic reasons, but so she can have someone to talk to and spend time with.  And so the two form a friendship that gets strong and stronger each night.  As they share their past with one another, they also find themselves more and more involved with each other's lives until they can't imagine not having one another.  The story is simple, but the writing and characters is what made this book brilliant.  It was touching and more than a little big sad at time, but it was also charming and sweet and wonderful.  The story of two people finding companion in the mostly unlikely of times in their lives.  And a story that grows with you as you turn each page.  I loved every bit of this amazing little book.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (audio)

"Every man's island, Jean Louise, every man's watchman, is is conscience.  There is no such thing as a collective conscious."

I have been meaning to read this book for quite sometime - I can't remember a book in recent memory that has gotten so much press and was interested to see what Harper Lee had waiting for us. Due to her huge success with 'To Kill a Mockingbird' I was always curious why she never wrote another book. Reading this book put a lot of things in perspective and I later found out that this was actually a very early manuscript for 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' I wouldn't say that I necessarily enjoyed this book as a whole, but I did enjoy certain aspects of it - such as Jean Louise booking back at her childhood and her feelings of being torn between her adult home and the home of her childhood. Overall, the book seemed a little disjointed and slow, but it was worth reading for it's historical aspects and connections to the previous book.  What kept me going was Reese Witherspoon as the narrator of the audio book version and I couldn't help being constantly reminded of 'Sweet Home Alabama.'

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (audio)

"But why, why, why can't people just say what they mean."

Don Tillman is a genetics professor in his late 30s.  His life is full of routines and he plans everything to the minute.  He has been on a few dates, but has so far not been very successful in relationships.  In fact, he has pretty much given up on them altogether.  But, when his friend comments that he would make a good husband, Don decides to start what he calls "The Wife Project."  He creates a test to weed out incompatible partners and feels that this will ultimately lead him to his "perfect wife."  Then he meets Rosie - who fails Don's questionnaire and is deemed complete unsuitable for him.  Rosie has a project of her own she needs help with and Don starts to wonder why he likes spending time with her even though she is in no way suited to be his wife.

I might be going against the norm on this one, but this book was just ok for me.  I found it really predictable and thought that it could have been better developed.  I generally wanted Don and Rosie to get together, but I didn't feel that crazy, emotional connection to the characters that I usually do.  I thought Don's life was really unique and interesting, but I had a hard time believing that he was able to change so many of his daily routines and rituals that he had had for years and years.  Being "in love" would not normally allow a person to change nearly every aspect of how a person acts and thinks.  These things are changeable, but they take time.  A lot of time.  Maybe I'm just being too picky, but I tend to over analyze behaviors like this. I didn't mind reading this book and some parts were charming and funny, but it felt a lot to me like a typical romantic-comedy movie - nice to watch at the time, but no something I will likely think about when it's over or watch again.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (audio)

★★★★ 1/2
"The New York of the plays, the movies, the books: the New York of the New Yorker and Vanity Fair and Vogue.  It was a beacon, a spire, a beacon on top of a spire.  A light, always glowing from afar, visible even from the cornfields of Iowa, the foothills of the Dakotas, the deserts of California.  The swamps of Louisiana.  Beckoning, always beckoning.  Summoning the discontented, seducing the dreamers.  Those whose blood ran too hot, and too quickly, causing them to look about at their placid families, their staid neighbors, the graves of their ancestors and say - I'm different.  I'm special.  I'm more.  They all come to New York."

In this wonderful novel, Melanie Benjamin portrays the story (and ultimate betrayal) between Truman Capote and his "swans" - famous New York socialites of the 1960s.  These women were basically well-known because of their marriage to rich and successful men.  There jobs were basically to look gorgeous, socialize with the right people, and spend lots and lots of their husband's money.  The favorite of Capote's swans was Babe Paley, wife of CBS founder Bill Paley and the story centers around her, but intertwines the story of the other women as well.

I did not know much about these people (or this time period) before reading this book, but Benjamin brought it to life with such energy and showed not only the glamour, but the ambition and loneness and betrayal as well.  These women's lives were so far from my comprehension, but I found them extremely intriguing.  I thought that the novel was not only beautiful written and well-research, but entertaining and addicting as well.  I read it in only a few days (which is rare for me at this point in my life) and cannot wait to go back and read the author's previous novels.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (audio)

★★★ 1/2
"Books are more than doctors, of course.  Some novels are loving, lifelong companions; some give you a clip around the ear; others are friends who wrap you in warm towels when you've got those autumn blues.  And some...well, some are pink candy floss that tingles in your brain for three seconds and leaves a blissful voice.  Like a short, torrid love affair."

Monseiur Perdu owe a floating bookstore along the Seine - a bookstore that he has owed for years and years and one where he considers himself to be a "literary apothecary" where he prescribes books to his customers.  It's along the same lines as the "the perfect books for right person at the right time" moto that is seem in countless novels focusing on books or bookstores or libraries or whatever.  Even though Monseiur Perdu seems to be able to heal his patrons with a single volume, he cannot seem to fix himself.  We quickly find out that he is still in love with a women who left over twenty years ago and his life seems to be stuck and he can't get over the one true love of his life.

I enjoyed this book.  It had so many wonderful "bookish" quotes and details and I absolutly loved the idea of perscribing books for customers - a very similar line of giving library patrons that books that they need.  But Monseiur did it with such charm and in such a unique way.  Plus the book was set in Paris, which is always a major plus.  I really enjoyed the beginning, but once Monseiur started traveling, I found myself losing interest in the storyline.  I kept wanting to love the book, but the writing and overall shape of the novel just felt a little lacking to me.  The cover and the title were so charming that I I guess I was expecting something a little different from this book.  But I'm ultimately glad I read it and it was overall charming and entertaining.